Oakland Cemetery raises money to help restore African American graves

Deborah Strahorn portraying Myra Miller. HANDOUT

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Deborah Strahorn portraying Myra Miller. HANDOUT

The Historic Oakland Foundation hopes to raise $5,000 to aid in its ongoing restoration project in the African-American grounds of the Atlanta cemetery.

The 3.5-acre area in Oakland Cemetery has not undergone a large-scale restoration in more than a century. The foundation needs $400,000 to fully restore the area, which will undergo major repairs.

Spokeswoman Pamela Henman  said the foundation hopes to raise the money during on Nov. 28 during  #GivingTuesday, which gives  Georgia donors a chance to give online  to their favorite state charities.


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The African American Grounds restoration project began in January, six months after HOF completed a ground-penetrating radar survey of the area. Historically, African American burial traditions utilized natural markers like wood, shrubbery, or flowers, which have been lost through the passage of time. Therefore, much of this section of Oakland Cemetery is bereft of headstones or other visual markers.

To determine what lies beneath, HOF partnered with Atlanta-based remote sensing firm Bigman Geophysical for a technologically-advanced survey of the American Grounds. That survey found nearly 900 probable unmarked burials in the area.

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People 2 People June 12, 2017

More than $9,000 was raised during the recent Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours in October.

That event included a  reenactment of the life of  Myra Miller. Miller was born a slave in 1811 and  was among the 10 residents featured on this year’s tours. Miller and her husband moved to Atlanta in the mid-1870s, and she became  one of the city’s most sought-after bakers.


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Other prominent African Americans buried there include Dr. Beatrice Thompson, who graduated from medical school in 1901 before setting up a practice in Athens. During her lifetime Dr. Thompson championed fellow entrepreneurs and invested in Athens’ first black-owned pharmacy.

Cemetery officials estimate that more than 12,000 people are buried in Oakland’s African-American Grounds area. In addition to the African American Grounds, Historic Oakland Foundation’s current large-scale restoration projects include work in the Jewish Burial Ground and Bobby Jones Area